Lindsay Gaydos

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Tim Sans started the new year by resolving to make healthier choices. Still finding himself overweight after multiple failed weight loss attempts, he was unsure of what direction to take next. He turned to juice fasting after watching the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” which follows an obese man on his 60-day fasting journey.

“My goals were ultimately to lose weight by following something similar to the situation in the documentary,” Sans said. “The experience was tough and I was hungry most of the time.”

Juice cleanses have caused some discord among those working in nutrition professions. Some view them as false guarantees or shortcuts for unhealthy routines, while others see them as experiences that can encourage healthier lifestyles.

The latter stresses support for short cleanses that focus on improving overall health, and reject extreme trends fixated only on weight loss. The Master Cleanse, an example of a popular extreme cleanse, involves one week of consuming nothing but a specific type of lemonade with the prospects of shedding pounds quickly. 

To start his fast, Sans opted for a regimen that involved six weeks of consuming only six bottles of organic fresh vegetable and fruit juices a day, provided by a company that specializes in juice fasting. While Sans does believe the juice cleanse was beneficial to his health, he did not achieve his weight loss goals. 

“I wanted to be able to do it long-term, but it was too difficult to stick with,” Sans said. “I would recommend it, but with reservations. It can be very hard to get started on if you’re going for long-term weight loss.” 

The notion of undergoing a juice-only diet, or any restrictive diet that cuts out major food groups, doesn’t sit well with University of Texas dietician Lindsay Gaydos.

“One of the major claims of juice cleanses is that it rids the body of harmful toxins, but the human body is already well equipped to rid itself of toxins via your kidneys, liver and skin,” Gaydos said. “In reality, cleansing diets that claim to remove ‘bad’ toxins from your system may also remove or even deplete your intestines of healthy bacteria required for healthy functioning. So, despite the popularity of juice cleanses and detox diets, they are neither necessary nor scientifically proven to work.”

According to Gaydos, while some people lose weight quickly on juice fasts, the vast majority regain all the weight they lose. And while people may lose five to 10 percent of their weight in the first few months of juice fasting, two-thirds of them regain even more weight than they lost. When you begin eating solid food again after a juice fast, the restrictive nature of a cleanse can cause carbohydrate and sugar cravings, which can cause some people to fall into not-so-great eating habits.

“A diet that consists of juice only is not realistic in representing the real world and food options one would find,” Gaydos said. “Simply, a juice diet does not translate into a lifestyle change that can be adopted for a long-term healthy lifestyle.”

The controversy surrounding the benefits of juice fasting continues, but Gaydos suggests that people think of juicing as an add-on to a healthier way of living. Instead of only drinking juice for weeks, Gaydos advises including juices in a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.  

However, some believe there are numerous benefits to juice cleansing. According to Leilani Galvan, cleanse captain at local juice vendor Juiceland, health benefits can include glowing skin, clearer eyes, weight loss, better mood, and a break in addictions of all sorts. She said people can also use juice cleansing to heal inflammation-related ailments like bronchitis and acne.

Galvan sees juice cleanses as a health-optimizing tool. She believes when people become empowered to take their health into their own hands, they become open to new possibilities. 

“It’s all in how you use it,” Galvan said. “Juice cleansing as little as one day a week, or three days every couple weeks, in addition to changes in your diet and exercise routine, can help aid in long-term weight loss, better digestion and a better immune system.”

A juice cleanse isn’t an immediate solution for an unhealthy lifestyle, says Galvan. But she hopes the experience helps people make better dietary choices going forward.

“Cleanses are not like [a] pill, where you take a certain one for a thing,” Galvan said. “Moving towards better health is the number one goal.” 

Printed on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 as: Opinions vary over benefits of juice tasting

Emily Twa is a contestant in the Cupcake Showdown, a cupcake competition organized by the Division of Housing and Food Service for student organizations. The live cupcake bake-off involves 2 rounds and the winning organization will receive $1000 to donate to the charity of their choice.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Perhaps there is no other baked good that inspires more passion than the cupcake. Cupcake lovers argue over the dominance of red velvet versus Funfetti, buttercream frosting versus chocolate ganache, and even the proper way to eat a cupcake. These conflicting views may come to a tension-filled climax at the University of Texas’ first ever battle royal of baking. 

The University of Texas is no stranger to competition. The Longhorns’ academic achievement and athletic prowess are forces to be reckoned with for universities throughout the nation. UT’s Division of Housing and Food Service has decided to use the Texas student competitive spirit in a new forum. It is hosting an event open to all student organizations called the Cupcake Showdown.

The Cupcake Showdown involves two rounds: a video preliminary round and a final live bake-off. The winning organization will receive $1000 to donate to the charity of their choice.

The first round requires each participating organization to make a cupcake that reflects what their group is all about. The groups will make a video explaining their confection and why it is worthy of the cupcake crown. Then they will post the videos to YouTube and send the link to by Feb. 18.  After watching each video, DHFS will pick four finalists to compete in a live bake-off Feb. 27 at J2 Dining Hall where a winner will be chosen.

“We serve food to the students and they eat with us, but we want our interaction with the students to be more personal and fun,” Lindsay Gaydos, DHFS dietitian and co-leader of the Cupcake Showdown, said. 

Kathy Phan, Gaydos’s partner and marketing coordinator of DHFS, agreed that increased student participation and enthusiasm in DHFS events is the main goal of the competition, the first of its kind offered to student organizations.

Student participation is often an issue for events like the Cupcake Showdown. This is especially true if they involve sitting in a large space, watching amateur students bake for a substantial period of time. Phan and Gaydos have a plan to stimulate the crowd. 

“We’re having a food drive at the bake-off, plus a photo booth, cupcake taste testing and a ‘decorate your own cupcake’ activity to make the event more interactive,” Gaydos said.

The final bake-off requires the finalists to use a collection of secret ingredients in their final cakes, all of which are Texas-themed. The possibilities are horrifying to imagine — perhaps jalapenos or Texas BBQ. Although the latter may be mildly ridiculous, DHFS probably has some surprises up their sleeves that would make an Iron Chef cringe.

“We like challenges, so we’re really excited for this,” said Nick Marino, a UT senior and representative baker from student improv troupe Gigglepants. “Our cupcake will probably be vomit-inducing, but it’s going to look great.”

Participating groups represent a diverse cross-section of the UT population, including several nutritional and vegetarian organizations, religious communities, philanthropic sisterhoods and even a few University fraternities.

Emily Twa, a UT freshman, is representing Texas Spirits, a UT spirit and social group, for the competition. If chosen as the champion, Texas Spirits plans to donate the $1000 to either St. Louise House or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I love baking, so this seemed like an easy way to get Spirits involved on campus,” Twa said. “I’ll just have to bring my cutest apron and hope for the best.”

Perhaps this event is not at the intensity and danger level of The Hunger Games, but the combatant nature of UT’s on-campus clubs is sure to come out. It’s time to get out the armory of whisks and wooden spoons, there is a sweet storm brewing and undoubtedly no one will leave hungry.

Published on February 11, 2013 as "Student organizations compete in cupcake challenge". 

Cara Bessom
Advertising junior
Diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2007

Photo Credit: Mikhaela Locklear | Daily Texan Staff

Cynthia Ivey was so sick she accepted she was going to die. That was three years ago. 

Ivey, a UT staff ombuds coordinator, lived most of her life in fear of food. She remembers eating potato chips and pickles almost exclusively as a child because she knew they wouldn’t make her sick. Ivey is now 48 years old and only after years of doctor visits, a trip to MD Anderson Cancer Center and even consulting a shaman, was she diagnosed with celiac disease. 

“When I got the phone call … I felt it,” Ivey said. “When he said celiac disease, I just knew. It went all the way through me because it was such a big deal. When I found out that I could probably be better in a few weeks I couldn’t believe it. And the pain went away in days. And yeah within a few weeks, I could tell I [was] not going to die.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes celiac disease as a genetic immune disorder that affects about one in 133 people. The disease is triggered by ingesting gluten, the protein present in wheat, rye and barley. If someone with celiac disease eats food containing gluten, they may suffer immediately by vomiting or having diarrhea. However, they could remain completely unaware that the protein is wreaking havoc on their small intestine until serious damage is done. 

The disease

Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, led the landmark study that determined one in 133 people has celiac disease. While scientists have learned more about celiac since Fasano’s study in 2003, the spectrum of gluten sensitivity is not fully understood.

In 2011, 16 physicians met in Oslo to discuss the reality of what they call “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” These are people without celiac disease who note health improvements on a gluten-free diet. There is little knowledge as to how many people are non-celiac gluten sensitive or how to test for it. Several gluten-free advocates, including Ivey, believe most everyone has some level of gluten sensitivity. 

And while the term “gluten-free” may be familiar to many, an understanding of celiac disease is not: Celebrities like Elisabeth Hasselbeck, one of the hosts of “The View,” have done their best to bring attention to the illness. But others, like Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow, who go on gluten-free detox diets, have been part of the gluten-free diet fad. When advertising junior Cara Bessom opens up about her disease, she still receives unbelievable questions. 

“Educated college kids will come up to me and be like, ‘So gluten, so it’s a grain? So can you eat a potato?’” Bessom said. “It’s hard because I’ve been so exposed to it, but like prior to being diagnosed, I would have no idea.”

Bessom was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007, her freshman year of high school. What is already a difficult time for most young people was made increasingly challenging for Bessom. 

“Some of my friends’ parents were like, ‘What? What is celiac disease? You didn’t have this yesterday.’ People didn’t understand that it was something that had been going on,” Bessom said. 

Since her diagnosis, Bessom’s kitchen at home has two of everything and avoiding contamination is easy. While college proved a challenge at first, Bessom developed a routine.   

At home, Bessom eats like anyone else. She begins her day with a piece of gluten-free toast or a bowl of gluten-free yogurt. She cooks rice, vegetables and usually chicken at night. She keeps cookies and gluten-free snacks on hand. And while she has her own pasta strainer and toaster, even Bessom’s roommate “gets it,” and often eats gluten-free food, too. 

“I moved off campus my sophomore year and have a wonderful group of friends that are all super accommodating,” Bessom said.

The trend

Bessom is just part of the growing gluten-free scene in Austin. The city boasts a slew of restaurants with gluten-free menus, and grocery stores from H-E-B to Whole Foods have aisles devoted to gluten-free items. There are support groups and cooking classes — even the UT dining staff is trained by Lindsay Gaydos, Division of Housing and Food Service dietitian, on how to prepare gluten-free food. 

“The biggest battle that I face in terms of training our staff is getting the point across to them that a gluten-free diet is followed for medical reasons,” Gaydos said. 

Bessom has been a witness to this battle as she remembers receiving the wrong food during her time living in residence halls. Since moving off campus, she chooses to cook her own food. Bessom said she eats lunch out maybe two times a week and then a couple of times on the weekend. 

However, the trendiness of a gluten-free diet has significantly impacted availability of products in stores and restaurants. Packaged Facts, a market research publisher, reported that sales of gluten-free foods reached $4.2 billion in 2012 and are expected to reach $6.6 billion by 2017. Fasano, the celiac researcher, told Reuters that “trend-chasers … account for more than half of the daily consumption of gluten-free products.” 

Anne Allen, co-manager of the Austin branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group of Central and South Texas, has been gluten-free for 10 years after being diagnosed with celiac disease. Allen also leads gluten-free tours and cooking classes at Whole Foods. 

“Being gluten-free has become kind of trendy, which has helped and hurt those of us who have celiac,” Allen said. “It’s helped because there [are] so many restaurants that are accommodating now. But it hurts because it takes our disease and makes it into a trend where people don’t take it as seriously.”

The labels

Many of those dealing with celiac disease do not expect to be able to eat at all restaurants. But if an item is labeled “gluten-free” and is cross-contaminated during preparation, it can be misleading and painful.  

Preparing truly gluten-free food requires more than just skipping the croutons on a salad. For those with a serious gluten allergy, gluten found on utensils, preparation surfaces, lids or condiments or in a toaster can cause a reaction. Or sometimes, it can be as easy as a case of mistaken identity.

“Over the holidays I was at my cousin’s house and ate what I thought was a peanut M&M and turned out to be a pretzel M&M. Who knew they even made those?” Bessom said. “It’s a rare occurrence, though. I’m generally very careful. Some people exhibit no symptoms and some with celiac have to lie in bed all day and become seriously ill if they ingest gluten. I’d say I’m somewhere in between the two.”

Wild Wood Bakehouse, just across from Wheatsville Co-op on Guadalupe Street, is a 100 percent gluten-free bakery. Owner Joan Griffith said it’s easy to maintain such a clean environment — they just don’t let anything containing gluten in the door.

“A lot of places have gluten-free items but they’re prepared in environments that if you are really serious about trying to remove all of the fermentative grains from your body, there’s enough wheat in there that you can be contaminated again,” Griffith said. 

Local restaurant Galaxy Cafe has had a printed gluten-free menu for three years, said director of operations Amber Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz reported that 5 percent of total sales are gluten-free and that the number of gluten-free orders has tripled since the restaurant introduced the menu. 

Santa Cruz said the Galaxy Cafe staff is trained to ask if customers are ordering gluten-free for preference or for medical reasons and that there are still menu items, like fried foods, that they do not offer to celiacs because cross-contamination is unavoidable. 

“I wish that we could have a completely dedicated fryer and I wish that we could do more, but we have to be smart about our financial decisions and our space,” Santa Cruz said. 

DHFS faces similar obstacles in creating a gluten-free friendly environment: While Gaydos, the UT dietitian, said the staff is trained to use special serving and prep areas for the gluten-free menu items, there is not a specifically gluten-free kitchen. 

Jessica Meyer, the blogger behind “ATX Gluten-Free,” was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009 after years of being sick. Meyer was a nutritionist and somewhat aware of what it meant to be gluten-free, but adjusting was still intimidating.

“I would research places in Austin that had gluten-free menus or maybe frequent nicer restaurants because the chefs were more willing to accommodate,” Meyer said. “I was nervous to ask a bunch of questions, but you really can’t be. Through the process you learn to be assertive when talking to the waitstaff and the chef to make sure you are getting a safe option.”

Meyer also does restaurant consulting, letting restaurants know if they are actually preparing gluten-free meals or not. She shared Allen’s
sentiments that the gluten-free diet fad brings awareness along with misunderstandings. 

“At restaurants, people want to add gluten-free options to their menu. Well, that’s great, but they need to do their research,” Meyer said. “They are normally in shock when I tell them, ‘This is gluten-free but you can’t prepare it right here.’ A lot of them will just research what the gluten-free ingredient is, but don’t realize that it might be underneath a different name on the label or something else like that.”

The lifestyle

While being a celiac means making major lifestyle changes, there are practices that anyone trying to live a healthy life could consider emulating. Not only does being gluten-free often require eating more whole fruits and vegetables and cooking one’s own food, it also requires research.

“The whole issue is dedicating yourself to finding out what you’re eating,” Griffith said. “We can make better choices and not eat commercial food with every meal. Essentially it’s being able to speak the language of your body … one of the main ways is by knowing what you eat and making your own food.”

But eating gluten-free version of foods like bread and pasta doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss. Some “gluten-free” foods actually have more calories than their
glutinous counterparts.

“[Being gluten-free] cuts out a lot of processed foods so it does force you to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables,” Gaydos said. “But whenever you are cutting out a lot of the grains you tend to lose things like fiber and B vitamins. Some of your naturally gluten-containing items, whenever they make gluten-free alternatives of them, they usually have a lot of fillers so they end up being much more unhealthy.” 

Ivey, Allen, Meyer and Bessom, however, all appreciated the painless eating experiences that gluten-free alternatives brought them. Ivey feels healthier than ever because of her diet. 

“I’m so lucky that I got this one. Because [with] most diseases you get sicker and worse. With celiac you can actually get better … I think it’s the best disease a person can have,” Ivey said.

People with celiac disease are appreciative of the increased awareness, but eager for regulated labels in grocery stores and restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Administration do not have the same regulations for labeling gluten-free products sold in grocery stores. 

“There’s these Amy’s frozen entrees and on the front it says ‘gluten-free’ and then when you look on the back it says ‘Manufactured in a factory that also processes wheat products.’ So it says it’s gluten-free on the front, but on the back it tells you it’s contaminated,” Ivey said. “We need to have really consistent labeling, period.”

Ultimately, celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t have to mean avoiding restaurants or not enjoying food. It means a different lifestyle — often a healthier lifestyle. 

“I wouldn’t change having celiac disease, because I’ve learned so much and it’s taken my life in a completely different direction than I probably would’ve gone if I didn’t have it,” Allen said.

Printed on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 as: Grain pains: a look at the challenges of celiac disease, gluten-free diets

The Division of Housing and Food Services has made efforts to meet the needs of students with food allergies, including providing gluten free meals.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

University of Texas students with food allergies can rest easy knowing their dietary needs are met on campus, although not all universities can say the same.

At Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. students with gluten allergies recently won a settlement after a lawsuit claimed the University was falling short of the American with Disabilities Act requirements by not offering gluten-free food options but requiring students to live on campus and buy a meal plan. Lesley is now offering gluten-free options on campus.

Lindsay Gaydos, Division of Housing and Food Services dietitian, said although UT students are not required to live on campus, those who do are required to buy a meal plan. The housing contract states that special meals for medical and religious related diets are not available, but the division has made efforts to meet the needs of students with food allergies, particularly in recent years.

“Students have the option of whether they want to live and dine with us,” Gaydos said. “Regardless of what the contract says, we are willing to assist in any possible way can for students with food allergies and special diets. We’re actually looking at rewording that within our contract in the near future, because we do so much in terms of accommodating.”

Biology sophomore Theresa Deike, who has been on a gluten-free diet for more than three years, said the awareness of gluten-free food in Austin and on campus makes it easy to find safe food for her to eat, and contributed to her decision to study at UT.

“I’ve been to other universities, like Baylor, where there was basically only one option, but I couldn’t eat the same meal every day for four years,” Deike said. “I eat at Jester a lot. I can pretty much eat whatever I want. In J2 especially, the staff is really good about answering questions about what is gluten-free.”

Gaydos said students living on campus can meet her for free personal appointments about food allergies, vegan or vegetarian diets and diet plans for healthy weight loss.

“When I meet with students with food allergies, I’m able to go through our entire menu with them and specifically take out the food items that meet their diet requirement, that way they know ahead of time what’s available to them,” Gaydos said.

Resident dining hall menus are provided online and are available on a mobile app, with at least one gluten-free option per each meal. Food icons, implemented in 2011, identify the top eight food allergens, as well as food items that are often avoided for religious reasons.

Jennifer Maedgen, Services for Students with Disabilities interim director, said although her office may be a first point of contact for new students with food allergies, they typically work directly with Division of Housing and Food Services because the division makes many accommodations in the dining halls and students rarely need further assistance.

“Because UT is such a large place, students may not know where to start,” Maedgen said. “Students with food allergies typically do not require classroom accommodations, but SSD may be more involved if they need accommodations in their campus living environment, but we would work with [DHFS] in these instances as well. As with all students, we work with them on an individual basis depending on their needs.”